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Roann Ghosh: “Family, Sleep, Nature”

In my podcast I talk about adopting five key principles to find true purpose and to thrive throughout your life. These are all based on the idea that we need to question and take back control. They include things such as slowing down each day for just two to five minutes to just sit and breathe […]

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In my podcast I talk about adopting five key principles to find true purpose and to thrive throughout your life. These are all based on the idea that we need to question and take back control.

They include things such as slowing down each day for just two to five minutes to just sit and breathe and observe with no expectations. I also talk about the importance of spending more time in nature — an 11am walk in the woods, weeding the garden at lunchtime or playing hopscotch with your kids in the afternoon.

Talking of kids, spending more quality time with the family is vital. It’s a hard one to consider after the months of home-schooling recently, but an important distinction here is the word ‘quality’. This means not being on your phone, but giving your family your full attention. Family grounds us and helps to keep us human — and through this, we access our kindness and compassion.

Finally, think about unity — the golden rule in many religious and philosophical texts says that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Treating others with respect and kindness brings us closer to each other, which in turn promotes harmony.


As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Roann Ghosh, former BBC/ITN journalist turned successful entrepreneur working with Innovate UK and Fortune 500 companies to create social good. He is the founder of Epiphany and the host of Self Centred with Roann podcast which follows conversations with purpose-led individuals and sets out new ways of thinking, living and working with purpose.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I (very grandiosely) called my company ‘Epiphany’ because, around five years ago, I decided to start working in a way that was more aligned to my values. It stemmed from a call with my mother one day, as I was telling her about a campaign I was running for a betting company and — as a principled lady, her silence spoke volumes about the kind of clients I was working with. I’d become so concerned with billings and revenue that I was suffering on a human level as a result.

I made a change to try to first work out what I really cared about and then try and put my efforts into a business that supported exactly those things. Looking back, it sounds linear and simple but it was a messy process — both scary and stressful. I closed down my previous start-up, lived off the profits for a while and then started to look around the charity sector and third sector for ideas.

It took some time to hit on what felt right. Finding yourself — or indeed your true value — is a difficult journey. I don’t think it’s something you can just work out on a cerebral level. Especially with our buttoned-up education and career structures, which restrict rather than motivate. I actually only started to make progress when I started to actively take time out and give myself the space to explore — which is when I realised I wanted to work only with clients whose moral and ethical standpoint aligned with my own, and only on projects or commissions that work towards social change and impact. That’s what we do now at Epiphany, and I’m very proud of that.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting thing that happened to me in my start-up career happened on a beach in Hawaii. I had been invited to attend a retreat for leaders and entrepreneurs, based around the ideas of seeking wisdom in the digital age. On my very first night, I met David Yeung, the founder of Green Monday and he showed me some stats around how the meat industry emits more carbon than all global transport emissions put together. He showed me his business model around helping large global companies to become better corporate citizens and reducing their carbon footprint, simply by changing what was on the menu of their canteens

This was a game changer for me. Firstly, it made me feel empowered, knowing that I could have a real environmental impact, simply by changing my diet (it wasn’t easy but I became a vegetarian within 9 months of the meeting). Secondly, it made me realize that it would be possible for me to build a business in actually helping companies to do better.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Prior to this epiphany moment, I was driven primarily by ego. Ego got me on the TV, ego helped me to build a successful agency from scratch. Ego kept me chained to the man-made fantasy of a career. But, ego made me empty and miserable.

It was by letting go of the notion of how things should be and instead taking the time to analyse what was important to me (actually me — and not my ego) that I have been able to live and work to a more fully formed version of myself.

You can call this a sense of purpose — and I talk about this a lot of my podcast — but my purpose came through a mixture of daily meditation, chats with family and chance opportunities and conversations. Someone else’s is likely to be different — which is why I start all of my interviews by asking my guests the same question — what is ‘purpose’ to you?

The answers are always as different, as they are illuminating. The mindsets of change makers has always fascinated me, and one of the things I wanted to delve into further on the podcast was the ‘how’ of how they were able to get into that mindset in the first place. Mindset and approach is one of the most important things to understand if you want to make an impact in some way.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

It used to be all about combat for me. Fight off other agencies for new clients, crush them with a pitch, the idea that if I’m winning, then someone else is losing. That idea is both wrong but also very, very isolating. I ended up unhappy, unfulfilled and surrounded by people that I had nothing in common with.

I now have a poster on my wall in my home office that reminds me what my true values are — at the top, is ‘kindness’.

Kindness is so important, because it allows me to get closer to others. To track down the other explorers on the same journey as me. And it also allows me to be kinder to myself — something I’ve struggled with hugely in my life. It also informs all of the ways I work with my clients and my team. When we give feedback, or deal with problems, we lead with kindness, we say things kindly, we consider how someone else might feel and we make sure that we are supporting people to respond with kindness too.

It isn’t just a trite or ‘woke’ thing to do, but by being kind in business, I’m showing that there is a new, more diverse, inclusive way to interact on a professional level. A way that shows more of me, where I’m more vulnerable, which in turn sets other people free to show their vulnerability and that part of who they are. COVID has really accelerated this process too — because you can’t help but see me more for who I really am when our Zoom call is interrupted by my two-year-old, marching in in a tutu. I welcome this, because it smashes the corporate barrier, the weird tone of voice people (including me) put on in the work place because we are fearful of showing too much of our true selves.

This dehumanising of the workforce has some grave consequences. Real humanity wouldn’t knowingly support the climate destruction that digging for fossil fuels creates. Real humanity wouldn’t look to profit from other’s misery. Real humanity wouldn’t knowingly consume food that was the result of extreme cruelty or deforestation. Real humanity wouldn’t force people to sit in traffic jams, or on buses and planes, to be largely sedentary for eight hours, eating fast food for lunch, away from their families, all while we face an environmental and global healthcare crisis.

None of these accepted norms make sense, have we just been too busy — or too self-absorbed — to notice it? Kindness promotes humanity and humanity smashes all of that. This starts by showing up as the real version of ourselves every day — showing up with purpose, whatever that means to us.

How do you think this will change the world?

It’s about individual change, and that’s both empowering and within all of our reaches. Once the individual changes, this filters out to all their colleagues, peers, friends and beyond. It’s a gradual tidal wave of kindness-led working and innovation that begins to be reflected in all aspects of our working lives. In a recent podcast, author David Price and I discussed this very idea — that as people, and especially young people, enter the workforce, they won’t put up with the status quo, with the profit-before-people approach, with counting money before counting happiness. And so, they are leaving big corporations and starting their own companies with entirely different values and ways of working.

He said to me: “If enough of us stop working for those organizations then they’re not going to exist for much longer. And that’s for me, where I take heart. I think increasingly there’s this mind shift that is taking place within our organizations, because frankly the people that are working in those organizations are not putting up with it any longer.”

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

If you look at human history, you’ll notice that many things have been created through chance rather than design. I often use the example of the QWERTY keyboard, a model used because of the technical limitations of early typewriters, which actually puts the most used letters wide apart. Not good for typing, not good for human hands. And yet despite the fact that we are no longer limited by that old technology, we have accepted that it’s simply ‘the way things are’ rather than taking stock and re-design for our benefit.

I think that if we adopt a kinder, truer approach to ourselves and our work, an inevitable consequence will be that we start to question all of the ‘qwerty’s in our lives. This (I hope) will lead to us re-appraising the ways in which we live and work, meaning that big changes will happen.

But change is hard. We are programmed to run away from it, so this new approach requires courage and trusting in ourselves enough to step into the unknown. At this time of great opportunity and change, we will need to be at our nimble and creative bests to make sure we use this opportunity to create a happier, healthier and more sustainable world. And one that works for all of us.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

It’s happening right now! I really think COVID is giving us all the change to re-appraise our biggest resource — our time. Look at the power of working from home — people already have their commute time back, to start they can start to give themselves the time to re-appraise their values and address the other QWERTYs in their lives.

I hope that by stepping out of autopilot, asking questions and being open to change we can end up with happier, people, better companies, fairer societies and ultimately more purpose.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

In my podcast I talk about adopting five key principles to find true purpose and to thrive throughout your life. These are all based on the idea that we need to question and take back control.

They include things such as slowing down each day for just two to five minutes to just sit and breathe and observe with no expectations. I also talk about the importance of spending more time in nature — an 11am walk in the woods, weeding the garden at lunchtime or playing hopscotch with your kids in the afternoon.

Talking of kids, spending more quality time with the family is vital. It’s a hard one to consider after the months of home-schooling recently, but an important distinction here is the word ‘quality’. This means not being on your phone, but giving your family your full attention. Family grounds us and helps to keep us human — and through this, we access our kindness and compassion.

Finally, think about unity — the golden rule in many religious and philosophical texts says that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Treating others with respect and kindness brings us closer to each other, which in turn promotes harmony.

What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

1. Don’t rush: find yourself first. Define what your purpose is — this will help you live and work with intention.

2. Make time to play: accessing joy helps connect us to our purpose.

3. Create portfolio days: doing things that align to your values and keeps you creative and active, rather than sedentary and automatic.

4. Watch out for ego: He’ll have you doing all sorts of weird things that just aren’t you.

5. Family, Sleep, Nature: they’re as important as work, schedule them in, make time for them, be committed to them in the same way you are to deadlines and meetings. These are non-negotiables.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

To any impact investors,I’m looking to start a venture called (TIED = Talent Is Equally Dispersed) which will give young people from disadvantaged communities the chance to train in software development alongside top professionals on real projects. Code is both a huge growth opportunity area, but also one of the most underrepresented sectors when it comes to underprivileged backgrounds.

Alongside the professional skills and real-world work with real clients, the apprentices will also study modules in mindfulness and financial accountability (amongst other things), meaning that after completing their training with us they will walk away with a real portfolio of work on actual projects, and also the necessary life-skills to walk into a real job and support themselves financially and emotionally.

If you’d like the chance to be involved feel free to reach out!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Instagram @roann.ghosh and Twitter @francghosh.

And if you’d like to check out my podcast it’s called Self Centred with Roann and it’s available on Apple, Spotify and all major podcast platforms.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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